The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 25, 2013

Upgrades aimed to boost tourism

Randy Griffith

JOHNSTOWN — The high caliber and eclectic mix represented by this year’s AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival lineup highlights the founding organization’s broader mission to attract visitors to Johnstown.

From the music festival to its signature network of local historical attractions, the Johnstown Area Heritage Association is committed to building Johnstown tourism, association President and CEO Richard Burkert said.

“We are going to be upgrading the (Johnstown) Flood Museum and transforming the former train station into a visitors center,” Burkert said. “The idea is to make downtown Johnstown a true tourist destination.”

A major capital campaign to fund the upgrades has local supporters wooing businesses and philanthropic foundations throughout the state, he said.

It has not been easy, Burkert admitted, adding that the entire world of museums and nonprofit organizations has been struggling. The virtual elimination of state funding and a downturn in corporate giving is hurting, he explained.

The association constantly works with local banks to manage long-term loans for major projects and short-term notes that help offset the tourism industry’s cyclical nature.

“The truth is no museum makes money,” he said. “Nonprofits have to be supported by the community.”

But the community gains the benefit of outside money spent in stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses, he added.

“We are the loss leader for the community,” Burkert said.


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